Statius, Thebais

  • 1402; parchment; mm 352 × 234; ff. I, 168, II’.
  • Vatican City, ‘Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana’, Arch. Cap. S. Pietro H. 15

Not only a study text, but also, and above all, a pomp display is to be considered this magnificent witness of Statius’ Thebais, copied in Bologna by the Friulian student Giovanni Berto on a good-quality white parchment, with wide borders and a very rich decoration.

Statius, and among his works particularly the Thebaid, was one of the auctores who were read and studied in the high school courses of Latin language and literature, both in the Middle Ages and, for a better reason, after the advent of the studia humanitatis. The ornamental set of this codex, nothing of the banal kind, reveals the style of the «Maestro del Messale Orsini», the same miniaturist of another codex kept in the Vatican Library, in the same fund of the Archives of St. Peter’s Chapter (ms B. 66), which belonged to cardinal Giordano Orsini († 1438), bibliophile, patron, relevant representative of the early fifteenth-century Roman humanistic culture. The codex has the following colophon: «Statii Surculi Papinii Tholosani poete anno Domini millesimo CCC quadrigritesimo [sic] secundo octobris luce undecima Thebaydos peractus est liber per me Iohannembertum de Foroiulii tunc temporis Bononie studentem. Laus tibi Christe» that can be read on f. 168v. The year of the work completion, which has given rise to clashing interpretations, is to be correctly read ‘1402’. Nothing is known about the Friulian Giovanni Berto, except the information he gave himself in his colophons (beside this codex, in 1404 he also copied the Plut. 91 inf. 10 of the ‘Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana’ in Florence, «dum Bononie in domo spectabilium militum domini Melchionis et Bertholomei de Mazolis de Bononia permanerem»): so he was a student in Bologna, maybe of ars notariae or law, and lived, at least in the year 1404, in the house of two notables of that city, father and son, who held some relevant public offices in the following years, among which the reformator office of the Bologna Studium, as well.

 f. 2r, in the bottom Giordano Orsini’s coat of arms

f. 2r, in the bottom Giordano Orsini’s coat of arms

f. 14v decorations with phytomorphic motives

f. 14v decorations with phytomorphic motives

 

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